By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks made sure coach Mike Budenholzer had an easy first night back on the job.
Antetokounmpo had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to help Milwaukee rout the Golden State Warriors 118-99 on Thursday night in Budenholzer’s return from the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. Antetokounmpo had his third triple-double of the season and 28th of his career.
Budenholzer missed four games while in the health and safety protocols, with assistant Darvin Ham taking over as acting head coach. The Bucks went 1-3.
“I think Coach Darvin did a great job stepping up, leading the team, coaching the team and keeping us accountable,” Antetokounmpo said. “But, obviously, it’s great to have Coach Bud back healthy, happy and getting us ready to go.”
Khris Middleton added 23 points, Bobby Portis 20 and Grayson Allen 15 for the Bucks.
Milwaukee never trailed while racing to a 77-38 halftime advantage and handing the Warriors their fourth loss in five games. Antetokounmpo had 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the first half.
“I think there was a good focus from us tonight,” Budenholzer said. “I think when it starts on the defensive end, usually that’s when we’re at our best. A team like the Warriors, a player like (Stephen) Curry and (Klay) Thompson, they bring out the best in you. They bring out the highest focus.”
The Bucks were just two points shy of their largest halftime lead in franchise history, a record they set this season. Milwaukee led 77-36 at the half in a 123-92 victory over Orlando on Nov. 22.
“We just got off to a terrible start where everything went wrong on both ends of the floor,” Curry said.
The Warriors didn’t have Draymond Green due to left calf tightness, which also kept him out of a loss at Memphis on Tuesday night and caused him to play less than a minute Sunday in a victory over Cleveland.
Milwaukee was missing guard Jrue Holiday for a fourth straight game. Holiday sat out a Jan. 2 victory at Brooklyn while in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and has since sat out three games with a sore left ankle.
Golden State outplayed the Bucks in the second half and reduced the deficit to 18 on Juan Toscano-Anderson’s 3-pointer with 9:39 left, but that’s as close as the Warriors would get.
“I know we just got our butts kicked, but we’re just in a rough patch in our season,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It happens to every team, every year pretty much with very few exceptions. We’re in a little bit of a rut and we were playing a team that was ready and played a great, great first half. We’re a little out of sorts. We’ve just got to get back on track, and we will.”
Andrew Wiggins led the Warriors with 16 points. Jonathan Kuminga had 15, Curry 12 and Thompson 11.
Warriors: With the Warriors playing on back-to-back nights, they planned to rest Thompson on Friday night at Chicago. Thursday marked Thompson’s third game back after being out for over 2 1/2 years because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and an Achilles tendon injury. “Part of the process of his recovery is he’s not going to play back-to-backs early on,” Kerr said. … Gary Payton II played less than five minutes before lower back tightness knocked him out for the rest of the game. … Assistant coach Kenny Atkinson entered health and safety protocols and wasn’t on the bench Thursday.
Bucks: George Hill returned after missing four games while in health and safety protocols. Hill went scoreless in 17 1/2 minutes but had four assists. … The Bucks signed guard Lindell Wigginton to a two-way contract and requested waivers on guard Javonte Smart, who averaged 2.4 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 12.3 minutes while appearing in 13 games. … Budenholzer said he feels great now but there were a few days that he didn’t feel well while in the protocols. “I think everybody goes through a little different experience,” he said.
Warriors: At Chicago on Friday night.
Bucks: Host Toronto on Saturday.
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